Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Best of Checkmate Season One|
Genres: Westerns, Television
Checkmate was one of the best television dramas to come out of the 1960s, combining great scripts, locations and casting. Created by thriller-writer Eric Ambler and filmed on the streets of San Francisco, the series revolv... more »
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Checkmate: TV Excellence
J.T.J., an Author | Renton, WA United States | 12/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was very pleased that someone finally released Checkmate on DVD. It is definitely one of my favorite shows of yesteryear.
But why? The premise of the show, dreamed up by its creator, Eric Ambler, is outstanding. The staff of detectives are not in business to investigate crimes already committed, they are in business to prevent crimes from being committed. So far, every story I have seen is quite good. Their firm, Checkmate, Inc., is the only possible agency that would actively try to save a client by driving her would-be killer half-crazy. Great premise. You'd have to see that one to believe it.
Like another reviewer, I have to say that I was young when this series was first on the air--actually, I was 12 when it made its debut in 1960. But there were very strong images from this show that have stayed with me for decades. There was the cool, pulsating, darkly jazzy theme music of John Williams; the swirling mass of paints underneath the credits; and best of all, the mature, thoughtful dramas always leading to twists and turns. It offers its own black and white style of film noir. Checkmate was not necessarily the best show, but I rank it as one of the better ones.
The stars of the series were Anthony George, Doug McClure, and the great Sebastian Cabot. Many remember McClure from The Virginian, and Cabot from Family Affair (he played the butler). George, for whatever reason, seemed to fade from fame after the 1960s. It is a shame. He strongly plays the main character that superbly drives this show. Cabot, is also very, very good. It is too bad he did not live long enough to headline his own series along the lines of a Murder She Wrote or Hercule Poirot. He would have been perfect. McClure, whom many have derided in the past for reaosn unclear to me, should be praised for his work on this series. His smooth performance here proves he could play more than just a western character (and by the way, I thought he did a bang-up job in one of his other shows, "the Virginian").
I had remembered some of the twelve episodes in this box set. The one with Mickey Rooney playing a cartoonist being marked for murder by a comic strip character he had created really stood out! Also, episodes guest starring Ricardo Montalban, Jane Wyman, Ann Baxter and others I sort of remembered. It truly surprised me to see such stars as Joan Fontaine, Joseph Cotten and Charles Laughton in important guest star roles. They are quite good I might add.
Yes, the sound and picture quality could be a lot better. I nearly downgraded the set for this reason. However, I was so happy to see these shows released at all that I wanted to give it a top review. Anyone who loves mysteries, detective stories, and simply well-written shows featuring good performances by terrific stars of the 1950s and 1960s should purchase this set. Also, I agree that the distributors should release more episodes. I further think they should do a better job of restoring them; Checkmate episodes are "keepers.""
Mr. David Mcallister | 11/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this series because of a feeling of something special glimpsed on TV as a small child. Why Checkmate should have lingered on in my memory I had no idea until I received the DVD and started watching. What a surprise. This show is absolutely excellent and holds up amazingly well over the intervening five decades since its original airing.The stories are unusual and creative with some surprisingly modern ambiguity and blurry edges in the scripts. The parade of guest stars is Hollywood at it's best and its nice to see some forgotten faces in smaller parts as well.
I thoroughly recommend this box set, even though the quality of the picture and sound is uneven and spotty.Just feel the quality of the stories and enjoy on that basis.
Hope there is more of this to come, with sharper picture and sound. If I'm giving this five stars, imagine what a digitally remastered box set
could achieve! How about a box set "best of " 77 Sunset Strip while we wait?
Unique and Entertaining
Only-A-Child | 02/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The 70 black and white hour-long episodes of "Checkmate" were originally broadcast from 1960-62 on CBS. Those who only remember Sebastian Cabot as the prissy butler "French" on "Family Affair" will be surprised at his superior acting talent, which was nicely showcased in this series.
"Checkmate Inc." was an unusual organization based in San Francisco, a posh detective agency whose specialty was thwarting crimes "before" they occurred. The plotline for each episode was structured to resemble a chess game, which reflected the series title.
Middle age detective Don Corey (Anthony George) operated the firm out of his elegant Nob Hill apartment. Young Jed Sills (Doug McClure) was the designated hunk of the series. Dr. Carl Hyatt (Cabot) was a trained criminologist who served as the organization's brain trust. The three mostly worked as a team and a lot of the humor came from Cabot's frequent frustration over the dimness of his two associates.
Warner Brothers had hit on a successful formula for the intelligent detective series (insert "Surfside Six", "77 Sunset Strip", etc. here) and Jack Benny's "JaMco Productions" appropriated this and turned into "Checkmate". However at least they eliminated Warner's obligatory weird side-kick/informer and good looking but airheaded singer/girlfriend/etc.
So they basically had a main character targeted at all age levels of the female demographic, with one of which almost any male viewer could identify. And each episode included some attractive young actress's and has-been movie stars in the cast.
The early John Williams' theme music was a memorable jazz instrumental for which he received a Grammy nomination. As often happens with these things they tried to get cute between seasons and added Jack Betts to the cast as investigator Chris Devlin and they moved the agency into a normal office suite. It limped through its second season until cancellation.
12 episodes from Season One are now out in a DVD package with the misleading title "Best of Checkmate:Season One". It does not appear that any effort was made to actually cull out the "best" episodes for this release, it looks more like this group was included because they were the only ones to which Edi Video had the rights and/or the only ones in good enough condition for digital re-mastering. The DVD package has no special features and is a relatively low-budget but serviceable effort. A similar collection of Season Two episodes is due for release in March 2008.
Then again what do I know? I'm only a child."
William Kohnke | Waldorf, Maryland United States | 02/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"They don't make 'um like this anymore. Crisp writing and logical story flow keep you guessing until the end of the show. I used to watch this show in my very early youth and still remembered the swirling opening credits and the presence of two of my favorite stars from that period, Sebastian Cabot and Doug McClure. My only complaints are the lack of effective control over the menu screen (it keeps defaulting to play all episodes) and the limited number of episodes (15) in the somewhat misleading Season One title. I strongly suggest they restore the rest of the series and offer it as well."